10 Ways to Stimulate Muscle Growth

You might be thinking about hitting the gym again after taking a break for a while. Life has been busy, and your fitness routine kept getting pushed aside. But now, you’re ready to get back into it, build some muscle, and feel great in your body.

When you step into the gym, you see big guys lifting even bigger weights. They look super strong and you want to build muscle like them. But you wonder, does it really take a lot of time and dedication?

Well, kind of, but not entirely. It takes years of consistent workouts and a solid diet to get a body like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s. But if you’re not aiming to be a bodybuilding champion, building muscle doesn’t have to be so complicated. Here are some easy tips to help you get started:

Why Building Muscles Is Important

Building muscles does more than just change how you look or boost your strength. Sure, hitting your squat max feels great, but there’s more to it than that.

  1. Joint Support: Muscles support your joints, reducing the impact on them when you move. Strong muscles absorb force, protecting your joints from damage and helping them move correctly. This also improves balance and prevents injuries.

  2. Burns More Calories: More muscle means a faster metabolism, so you burn more calories even at rest. Muscle burns more calories than fat, helping you maintain a healthy weight.

  3. Blood Health: Building strength improves blood composition. Muscles use glucose and fatty acids for fuel, which helps regulate blood sugar levels. This reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, and nerve problems associated with high blood sugar.

  4. Improves Daily Life: Strong muscles make everyday tasks easier. You won’t get as tired climbing stairs or carrying groceries, and you’ll enjoy activities like sports or hiking more.

  5. Aesthetic Benefits: Building muscles makes you look better. Your clothes fit nicely, you might feel more attractive, and it boosts confidence. Looking good is a valid reason to hit the gym and still brings health benefits.

While building muscle is great, it requires effort beyond lifting weights. You need to push your muscles to grow stronger and create the right environment for recovery. This includes proper nutrition, rest, and active recovery, not just exercise. All these factors play a role in effective muscle building.

What is Muscle Hypertrophy?

Muscular hypertrophy, or muscle growth, comes in two types:

  1. Myofibrillar: This type focuses on strengthening the parts of muscles responsible for contraction.
  2. Sarcoplasmic: This type increases the storage of glycogen, providing more endurance energy.

Which type you aim for depends on your fitness goals. Myofibrillar training enhances strength and speed, while sarcoplasmic growth boosts endurance for activities like long-distance running.

To make your muscles grow, you need to challenge them. This means lifting weights that are heavy for you and doing enough reps. When you push your muscles hard, they release hormones that help them grow. So, consistent and tough workouts are key to making your muscles bigger.

Remember, putting in effort is super important for building muscle. But you also need to push yourself to do more over time. This is called “progressive overload.” It means gradually increasing the challenge in your workouts to keep making progress.

Progressive overload doesn’t mean always lifting heavier weights. That could lead to injuries. It’s about gradually increasing the difficulty over months of training. This is why having a plan is crucial. You need to set goals and follow a strategy to reach them.

Your plan doesn’t have to be strict. You can still enjoy your meals and not spend all day at the gym. But most of the time, you should focus on training and eating in a way that supports muscle growth.

Whether you’re new to working out or stuck in a rut, the following tips can help you build muscle in a smart and achievable way.

10 Ways to Stimulate Muscle Growth

1. Maximize protein synthesis

If you want to get stronger and bulk up, protein is your best friend. It’s like the building blocks your muscles need to grow big and strong. This isn’t just some made-up idea – it’s backed by real science, not just stuff gym buffs say.

Your body is always using up protein for different things, like making hormones. This means there’s less protein left for building muscles. To fix this, you’ve got to make new proteins faster than your body breaks down the old ones.

The usual advice is to eat one gram of protein for every pound you weigh if you’re trying to gain muscle. But new studies from McMaster University suggest you might not need quite that much.

So, if you weigh 160 pounds, you’d aim for around 160 grams of protein a day. You can get this from different foods like chicken, cottage cheese, eggs, milk, peanuts, soy, almonds, lentils, spinach, peas, and beans. Don’t eat meat? No worries, there are plenty of other options!

Now, for the rest of your calories, split them between carbs and fats. Here’s a rough guide: aim for 12 to 15 percent of your calories from protein, 55 to 60 percent from carbs, and 25 to 30 percent from fats, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

2. Focus on Your Big Muscles

If you’re new to working out, any exercise will make your muscles grow. But if you’ve been at it for a while, focus on your chest, back, and legs. Use moves like squats, deadlifts, pullups, rows, bench presses, dips, and military presses.

You want to trigger muscle growth. To do that, do two or three sets of an exercise, doing 6 to 12 reps each time. Take 30 to 60 seconds rest between sets.

By working hard, you’re breaking down your muscles. Then, the protein you eat helps rebuild them stronger.

Cut down on cardio if you want to bulk up. Too much running can make it hard to gain weight. Save your cardio for days when you’re not lifting weights.

3. Eat Every 3 Hours

Divide the number of calories you need in a day by six. That’s how much you should eat at each meal. Make sure to include some protein, about 20 grams, every three hours.

4. Build Up Before Bedtime

Have a mix of carbs and protein 30 minutes before you sleep. This helps your body hold onto calories while you’re sleeping, reducing muscle breakdown. For example, you could try a cup of raisin bran with skim milk or cottage cheese with fruit.

Another option is a shake before bed with casein protein. Casein breaks down slowly, helping with muscle growth while you sleep.

After waking up, eat again. Being consistent will give you better results.

5. Stop Cutting Calories

To build muscle, you need to eat more calories, along with getting enough protein. These two things work together. Use this formula to figure out how many calories you need each day to gain one pound a week. Then, split up your food based on the macro guidelines we talked about earlier. Give it about two weeks to see results on the scale. If you haven’t gained weight by then, add 500 more calories a day.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Start with your weight in pounds.
  2. Multiply your weight by 12 to find out your basic calorie needs.
  3. Then, multiply that number by 1.6 to figure out your resting metabolic rate (how many calories you burn without exercising).
  4. For strength training, multiply the number of minutes you lift weights each week by 5.
  5. For aerobic training, like running or cycling, multiply the minutes you spend doing these activities each week by 8.
  6. Add the results from step 4 and step 5, then divide by 7.
  7. Add that number to the one you got in step 3.
  8. Finally, add 500 more calories to get your estimated daily calorie needs to gain one pound a week.

6. Prepare Yourself Before Working Out

A study in 2001 at the University of Texas found that drinking a shake with amino acids and carbs before exercise boosted protein synthesis more than drinking the same shake after. The shake had 6 grams of essential amino acids and 35 grams of carbs.

Since exercise increases blood flow to your muscles, drinking this mix before can help your muscles absorb the amino acids better.

For your shake, aim for 20 grams of protein, usually one scoop of whey protein powder.

If you don’t like shakes, a turkey and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread can provide the same nutrients. Just make sure to hit your protein and carb goals.

But overall, drinks are better because they’re absorbed faster. So try to drink one 30 to 60 minutes before your workout.

7. Train With Heavy Weights

To get stronger and build muscles, train with heavy weights. Curtis Shannon, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, says that lifting heavy has many benefits. It challenges your muscles both when lifting and lowering weights. Doing it correctly causes more muscle tear and rebuild, leading to growth.

Not every set needs to be high reps. For exercises like squats, bench presses, and deadlifts, try sets of 5 reps. This allows you to use heavier weights, which builds pure strength. With progress, you’ll lift heavier weights for more reps.

Here’s a way to include heavy training in your workouts: Start with a low-rep exercise, like 4 sets of 3-5 reps. Then, for the rest of your moves, do 3 sets of 10-12 reps. This approach combines building strength early and adding reps later for the best results

8. Give Your Body Time to Recover

You should exercise daily, but that doesn’t mean pushing yourself to the limit every time. If you do, your body won’t have time to recover and grow.

Choose when to push hard wisely. Try to finish workouts feeling good, not completely worn out. Keep your weightlifting sessions to around 12 to 16 sets, and don’t go over that limit.

It’s okay to have tough workouts now and then, but don’t overdo it. Limit super intense sessions to three times a week, and never do them on consecutive days.

Your body needs time to recover and grow. Training too hard all the time can actually hinder muscle growth by not giving your body enough rest.

9. Progressive Overload

It’s a good ideas to challenge yourself by making your workouts tougher over time. However, it’s not just about lifting heavier weights every time. You can’t alway keep adding more weight because it gets too difficult. 

Instead of just focusing on lifting heavier, aim to improve in some way during each set. Even if you’re not increasing the weight, you can still push yourself. For example, if you did 10 reps of deadlifts in one set, try doing the same number of reps in the next set but with better form.

Sometimes, sticking to the same weight for all sets can still be challenging, especially if you’re improving your technique with each set. There are other ways to progress too. You can reduce the rest time between sets, increase the number of reps, or even do more sets.

I’d suggest you to aim for improvement in every workout. It might not always mean lifting heavier weights. For instance, if you deadlift 280 pounds for four reps today and can’t add more weight, but manages to do a fifth rep or does the four reps with better control than last week, that’s still progress.

10. Sleep 6 Hours or More

Getting enough sleep is crucial for building muscle, but it’s often overlooked. While you’re asleep, your muscles recover and your body grows. This is also when hormones that help muscles grow are released.

Ideally, you should aim for 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night. But if that’s not possible, try to make the most of the hours you do get. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.

Sleeping in a dark, quiet, and cool room can also improve the quality of your sleep, which is important for muscle growth. These small adjustments can make a big difference in building muscle.

How Long Does It Take to Build Muscle?

Well, there’s no set time frame. It depends on factors like your workout routine, diet, rest, and more, says Grover.

According to a 2018 study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, you might start seeing muscle growth after about 10 workout sessions. But significant muscle growth might take around 18 sessions.

In the early phase of resistance training (within four sessions), muscle size may increase due to swelling caused by muscle damage. After 10 sessions, you might start to see modest muscle growth, and around 18 sessions, true muscle growth becomes evident.

However, a 2017 study in the same journal found that significant increases in lean mass could be seen after just seven workout sessions over four weeks. Participants did dumbbell curls and shoulder presses twice a week, increasing weight and intensity as they progressed.

To maintain your hard-earned muscle, consistency is key. Lack of muscle use or proper nutrition can lead to muscle loss (atrophy), but it usually takes more than just missing a gym session for this to happen.

Muscle building involves creating small tears in muscles through resistance training, which are then repaired and strengthened with protein. So, along with workouts, you need to make you’re getting enough protein in your diet.

If you want to level up your fitness performance, you might want to check out our list of the best muscle stimulators. Some of these devices are FDA-approved for their benefits in facilitating muscle growth and recovery.

Final Words

Building muscle is simpler than many other life goals, but it’s not a walk in the park and it doesn’t happen overnight.

To pack on serious muscle, you need months and even years of hitting the weights and eating right. Everybody’s muscle growth journey is different, even if they’re following the same plan.

When it comes to workouts, focus on compound and isolation exercises with weights. Tailor the specific moves, sets, and reps to ensure steady gains in muscle size and strength over the long haul.

Nutrition plays a big role too. You need enough protein, fat, and calories to fuel muscle growth without piling on excess fat.

Interested in receiving personal guidance for muscle training and fitness? Join my online personal training program.

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